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The State and Future of Blood-Based Biomarkers in the Health and Retirement Study


  • McDade Thomas

    () (Northwestern University)


The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is an important national resource for policy makers and investigators across a wide range of disciplines, and it is critical that the study collects the best information possible on the health status of its participants within the constraints of the survey design, and without compromising the integrity of the sample. Potential directions for the collection and analysis of biomarker data in future waves of HRS are discussed, with a primary focus on blood-based biomarkers. Advantages and disadvantages of various methods for collecting blood in the home are considered, with particular attention given to the strengths and weaknesses of dried blood spot (DBS) sampling. DBS sampling has been widely applied in recent biosocial surveys due to the low cost and burden associated with sample collection, but these benefits need to be weighed against challenges associated with quantification in the laboratory. Attention is also given to additional biomarkers that may be of relevance to HRS, and that would expand the survey’s current focus on obesity and metabolic syndrome. Measures of inflammation, pathogen exposure, reproductive function, stress, and epigenetic modifications are suggested as potentially productive future directions for the study. In addition, the analysis concludes with the following recommendations for HRS: Continue to collect DBS samples, but consider alternatives; implement enhanced procedures for quality control; calibrate DBS results against plasma values, and invest in methods development.

Suggested Citation

  • McDade Thomas, 2011. "The State and Future of Blood-Based Biomarkers in the Health and Retirement Study," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(3), pages 1-22, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:fhecpo:v:14:y:2011:i:3:n:5

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